Book Review: German Men Sit Down to Pee and Other Insights into German Culture
When I first saw the title of this book, I really had to laugh because I had a conversation once with some of my North-American friends here about how we all thought it was so strange that German men sit down to pee, and how we all found it very feminine. However, just like many other things I find weird about living in Germany, there are great explanations in this book about many of the things I am used to now, but still had questions about. I’ve lived in Germany for almost 6 years, worked here and even dated a German for some time, and I still found the insights in this book helpful. I’ve had many experiences with these cultural ‘differences’ and it was funny to read the explanations provided by a real German (Niklas Frank) and a fellow expat living in Berlin (James Cave). I think if I would have had a book like this when I first moved to Germany, things would have been a lot clearer! I’ve gone through the book and picked my top 10 ‘unwritten rules’ of living in Germany which resonate with me the most, and provided my own experiences, recommendations and comments for these.
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Below are my comments on of these cultural ‘facts’ – I know that these stereotypes do not apply to all Germans, but as a general – this is what I’ve experienced too.
Germans love their paperwork, that’s for sure. Since moving in Germany, I’ve even kept binders of papers that I probably don’t even need to keep, just because I was almost trained to do and that it felt ‘safe’. When applying for a visa, a job, opening a bank account, etc. you can be sure that there is forms to be filled in and scans or copies of many things that are needed. I wonder where they keep this is all after the applications are finished?! It’s better to be prepared to fill in the paperwork, and keep a copy of everything, as it will make your life a lot easier here when ‘they’ ask for it.
Don’t Spend More than You Have
Before I moved to Germany, I was a credit card/points card addict. Not saying I would overspend on my credit cards, but for me it was normal to just pay with everything on credit, then just pay it at the end of the month. The nice thing about this was that I got to collect points for stuff like travel while I spend money on day to day things. In Germany, they don’t really understand this concept of a credit card, and even the credit card I have is actually a credit-debit. Also, many stores only take cash. so you always have to be prepared. I guess just paying with the money you have, takes a lot of stress out of your finances, and most Germans love everything to be in order.
Be as Blunt as You Like
I think in general, Europeans are more blunt than North Americans, however Germans really do just say what they want to say and there is no need to beat around the bush. This has definitely brushed off on me, and I find myself just speaking the honest truth way more often. Just try to take things likely, and they are not trying to be rude, but non-honesty is just a waste of time - and that wouldn’t make sense for them :)
Bring Your Own Cake to the Office on Your Birthday
Alright, so it’s your birthday - this is your special day! In other countries this is your day to be treated like royalty. Friends taking you out for dinner, buying you drinks, all the presents! But no no no… in Germany… you must treat your friends! It is your special day, so you must make the day more special for everyone else by baking your colleagues cake, taking your friends out to dinner/cake & coffee… but don’t worry you will be repaid in gifts (the worth of gifts usually equals what you spend on them, though).
So yes, your birthday is going to cost you so money if you choose to celebrate. So better save up!
Be Organised and Plan Everything in Advance
There was a time in my life where I would plan stuff with my friends a few days before and it was normally ok. Even my birthday I would send the invites 1 - 2 weeks before. However, in Germany this doesn’t work. If you plan a party or an event with friends and you don’t give at least a months notice, it is often that people will already have plans. Calendars fill up fast, and you’ve got to get the plans in there early. No plans for New years by end of November? You might be spending the night alone. Didn’t book your easter weekend plans in January? Sorry, they’ll be no good flights left and all your friends have plans.
Well, it takes a bit getting used too, but once you try to think ahead, you’ll be booked up weeks in advance - like a local pro.
Flirt as Inconspicuously As You Can
I think the whole dating and flirting world here is very strange. I have only heard from my single friends how hard it is, and recently becoming single I can attest to that. Last time I was single I lived in Canada, and you literally had to tell men to ‘eff off’ because they get too much in your bubble or come on to you in weird ways. In Germany, the men kind of all keep to themselves, and expect you to make the moves (if any). I am guessing it’s because if they get turned down it might damage their egos and that’s something they hold onto very closely. I have also heard that german women are not very approachable, and it scares them off to even try and make the effort. Therefore, it’s a vicious circle of ego’s and why dating apps are so popular, because there is little too loose.
However, my Canadian ‘exoticness’ tends to break the ice pretty quickly.
Choose a Good Night’s Sleep Over Romance
Let’s talk about beds in Germany. Especially a shared bed with your (German) partner. Two giant pillows, two blankets, sometimes two mattresses pushed together. Basically feels like you’re having a sleepover rather than sharing a bed with your loved one. BUT, this means no one stealing the blanket in the night, and you each can choose your own density of blanket and mattress. Is this romantic? No. Practical & In the end more comfortable? Yes. When I first lived with a German Man I would complain that he would often be wrapped up in his own blanket like a caterpillar with no entry for cuddles in sight. However, I got used this and ended up in my own comfy cocoon regularly. And yes, he did complain when we went to hotels when there was just one blanket. Maybe this way of sharing a bed caused less fights in the night, but I’m pretty sure I almost prefer it now.
Eat a Big German Breakfast
When I think of a big breakfast, I think of fried sunny-side up eggs, loads of buttered toast, bacon, and huge pile of hash brows. However, in Germany this type of meal actually sounds more like lunch or maybe even dinner. This is not a big german breakfast, and is not normal on a weekend brunch. German breakfasts are very large as well and consist of loads of different kinds of bread & buns (germans LOVE their breads), deli meats, jams, spreads, boiled eggs, cheeses. Basically you just put stuff on bread and eat it, however you like. There is definitely no potatoes involved. Potatoes come during lunch, maybe. Oh and for dinner you eat more bread too, but its called evening bread. Being Gluten Free is not so fun here, I imagine.
Get Excited about Asparagus (Spargel) Season
Asparagus. How exciting can Asparagus be? Well in Germany, it is very exciting. First, this isn’t your average green asparagus, it’s actually a white fatter asparagus which is blanched. I had never seen this variety until I moved to Germany. But yes, Asparagus, which I will now call ‘Spargel’ is truly its own season here in Germany. It comes out around late April, and stay around until late June. It’s everywhere - you can buy it in small stands outside of train stations, it’s part of every restaurants menu, they even have festivals dedicated to the vegetable. It is usually served with hollandaise sauce, ham and boiled potatoes. This combination is quite amazing and tasty, so it’s easily to get obsessive over it. I’ve even seen spargel cake, waffles & pancakes, and yes I did even attend a spargel festival myself. There was lots of German beer too.
As mentioned in this book, there is also a strawberry and mushroom season too. Not to be missed either.
It was hard to choose my favourite ‘tips’ from this book, as it contains 60 different insights into this mysterious but loveable culture. Whether you’ve been in Germany for ages, plan to move here, or just got in the door, I would for sure grab a copy of this book as you will find it super relatable and easy to read and understand. Niklas & James do a great job in explaining these cultural phenomenons in a light hearted manner and it really makes a lot of (the weird) things make more sense.
I hope you enjoyed my comments and real life examples from this book, and remember if you want to win a copy of this book - comment below with your thoughts by 17.05.2019.
All the best,